ESSEX battled back on day three with an impressive unbeaten partnership from Jaik Mickleburgh and Greg Smith to take a huge slice out of Leicestershire’s first-innings lead of 152 at Chelmsford.

After Tom Westley was lost for just three at the beginning of Essex’s second innings, Mickleburgh and Smith frustrated the Leicestershire bowlers by putting on 98 runs.

Mickleburgh will be on 47 and Smith on 43 when they return to the crease tomorrow morning.

Leicestershire put themselves in a good position to win away from Grace Road for the first time since 2010.

They were 255 for two at the end of the second day and trailed by just 26 runs but added on 178 runs today before being bowled out for 433.

Brentwood Live:

Sharing a joke — Greg Smith (left) and Jaik Mickleburgh steadied Essex’s second innings after the early loss of Tom Westley. Picture: GAVIN ELLIS/TGS PHOTO.

Ned Eckersley, who had resumed his innings on 104, only scored six more runs before he became a first Championship wicket for medium-pacer Tanveer Sikandar.

The momentum appeared to swing Essex’s way when England spinner Monty Panesar had Michael Thornely caught at slip for 21 by Mark Pettini.

That was the first of three wickets that Panesar would snare in four balls.

Two balls after dismissing Thornley, he bowled Rob Taylor for two and then had Jigar Naik picked up by Ben Foakes at bat-pad with his next delivery.

Brentwood Live:

Happy chap — Tanweer Sikander took his first Championship wickets. Picture: GAVIN ELLIS/TGS PHOTO.

Leicestershire were 356 for seven at that point but they moved back into the ascendancy when scoring 77 more runs before being bowled out.

Panesar ended up with six wickets for 111 runs with Tanveer Sikandar finishing with two for 90.

Essex had a shaky start to their second innings when Westley edged to Eckersley off Charlie Shreck after scoring just three runs.

Mickleburgh and Smith then steadied proceedings for Essex, putting their impressive partnership of 98 to leave the hosts trailing by just 51 with nine wickets remaining heading into the final day.